KSAT, other outlets sue City of Uvalde, sheriff, school district for Robb Elementary school massacre records

KSAT is joined by ABC News, Texas Tribune, the New York Times and other news organizations

Hero in 1966 UT-Austin massacre shares his perspective about police response in Uvalde

UVALDE, Texas – KSAT 12 and more than a dozen media organizations have once again filed a lawsuit seeking access to records related to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School.

The new lawsuit was filed Monday against the City of Uvalde, the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.

The suit comes after news organizations, including KSAT, submitted dozens of Public Information Act requests seeking records including body camera footage, 911 calls, surveillance footage and communications from local leaders.

An 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers before he was fatally shot by police in what was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. Public briefings by Gov. Abbott and other officials in the days following the massacre provided inaccurate and conflicting information.

A report prepared by a Texas House Special Investigating Committee found “systemic failures” among law enforcement agencies and school safety protocols.

The report found that although 376 officers responded to the scene, it took them more than 77 minutes to breach the classroom and kill the gunman.

The body camera footage that has been released shows a clear lack of direction and communication among the responders.

The law enforcement agencies and school district have refused to release other records related to the May 24 massacre, citing an exemption due to a pending investigation.

The lawsuit argues that there is no ongoing criminal investigation since the deceased shooter, Salvador Ramos Jr., acted alone.

“For more than three months, the City of Uvalde, Uvalde CISD and Uvalde Sheriff’s Office have resisted the community’s calls for transparency and accountability,” said Laura Lee Prather, a First Amendment lawyer at Haynes Boone who represents the plaintiffs. “Their obfuscation has only prolonged the pain and grief of this tragedy. Today we are asking the Uvalde District Court to heed the call of the community and recognize that the public is entitled to these records under Texas law. We ask that the court grant our petition so that the people of Uvalde can understand the truth about what happened that fateful day.”

Earlier this month, KSAT was also among the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in state district court in Austin asking a judge to order the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to release records regarding the law enforcement response to the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

DPS officials refused to release them, citing a pending investigation exemption often controversially used by law enforcement agencies.

The refusal to release records has taken place even as the agency selectively disclosed some information through public testimony, third-party analyses, and news reports.

The media organizations in the first lawsuit include The Texas Tribune, ABC News; CBS News; CNN; Dow Jones & Co.; Gannett; Graham Media Group, Houston; Graham Media Group, San Antonio; NBC News; The New York Times Company; Pro Publica, Inc.; Scripps Media; TEGNA; and The Washington Post.

Other news outlets that joined Monday’s lawsuit include ProPublica, The New York Times Co., The Washington Post, Gannett, NBC News, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News and Dow Jones & Co.

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About the Authors:

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 20 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.